Florida’s salt springs bubble up from a trapped layer of seawater deep within the earth. At Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park, Salt Spring is very deceiving: although only a small crevice in a tidal basin, it’s 320 feet deep.
Location: New Port Richey
Fees: $3 per vehicle
Open: 8 AM until sunset daily
Main address: 8737 US Highway 19 North, Port Richey, FL 34668
Stretching along the Gulf of Mexico coastline for nearly four miles and 4,000 acres, hidden in plain sight west of the strip malls and condos along US 19 from Bayonet Point south to Port Richey, Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park encompasses a dozen coastal natural communities, most of which are wet. One of the delightful surprises of this preserve is the bounty of springs it holds. On a walk along the Springs Trail, we saw signage for at least five springs, but there are certainly more. Most are so subtle you wouldn’t notice them without a sign, but Reflection Spring was a genuine surprise with its large pool sparkling with fish. These are not springs you can swim in, but natural wonders to behold. All are salt water springs along the tidal fringe.
From the main entrance area, paddlers can access nearly four miles of untrammeled Gulf of Mexico shoreline, or paddle any of three trails, including along scenic Salt Springs Run. Kayak rentals are available. In addition to the Springs Trail, two shorter trails – the Kayak Launch Trail and the Eagle Trail – provide nature walks into the estuary and the flatwoods, respectively.
Two other entrance points lead to trails. The original Scenic Drive Trailhead, at the corner of Cinema Drive and Scenic Drive, offers a half-mile loop that sticks to the edge of scrubby flatwoods, diving into a bayhead to showcase towering trees.
Another trail, the Black Rail Trail, is accessed from the Black Rail Trailhead at the end of SR 52. There isn’t much to it yet except a walk to the estuary edge for birding.
Explore the park
- Three Days of Nature Coast Springs- Between New Port Richey and Crystal River, explore a variety of springs along the Nature Coast that provide splashing fun in summer and manatee watching in winter.